Tag Archives: Motivation

Monday Morning Moment – What Stirs Motivation, Initiative, and Innovation – What Kills It

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We all have the capability of motivating those around us…or demotivating them. We can stir initiative or slow it down. We can grease the tracks for innovation or derail it.

How are motivation, initiative, and innovation defined? Considering the definitions will help us remember how crucial they are to forward progress – in serving others, in product development, and in employee (or volunteer) engagement.

MotivationInternal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal. Motivation results from the interaction of both conscious and unconscious factors such as the (1) intensity of desire or need, (2) incentive or reward value of the goal, and (3) expectations of the individual and of his or her peers. These factors are the reasons one has for behaving a certain way.

InitiativeAn individual’s action that begins a process, often done without direct managerial influence. For example, an employee might take the initiative to come up with a new product or service that the company could offer…Demonstrat(ing) initiative by sharing their ideas, helping to improve our business, speaking up about problems, and suggesting potential solutions.

InnovationThe process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.

We can celebrate situations where we experience daily motivation and have the freedom and support to run with our initiative and participate in innovation. It’s in other situations that we need internal and external encouragement to press on, even without the help or support of our managers, leaders, bosses.

Dealing with bottlenecks, micro-managing, and continually reiterating leaders or bosses can tempt us to disengage and slow down in our own work…even in areas where our passion and commitment are high.

“One of the signals that managers might need more training is when their engineers aren’t taking initiative.”Jean Hsu, Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative?

“We agree completely that micromanagement is a big mistake. It diminishes people’s self-confidence, saps their initiative, and stifles their ability to think for themselves. It’s also a recipe for screwing things up—micromanagers rarely know as much about what needs to be done as the people they’re harassing, the ones who actually do it.” – Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Photo Credit: Flickr

This piece today is really not to vent about those in authority over us who make our work or volunteering difficult (and sometimes joyless). Listed below (in the links) are several lists on particulars that stifle or kill motivation, initiative, and innovation. Especially if you are a manager or boss, these would be important to consider.

We may need to process a bit about our struggle to get a project finished or an idea embraced. This particular blog came out of such a frustration. Still, what I hope is to take the power to spoil out of the hands of our bosses (most probably that is not their primary intention) and to empower ourselves to push on in ways we can. Without being divisive or insubordinate. Empathy is one of the tools we can use.Photo Credit: Brian Solis, Flickr

Empathy is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings”.

The Truth About Why Empathy is a Required Skill in the Workplace

Empathy probably seems a bit counter-intuitive when you’re feeling blocked by a controlling boss. Think about it. Once you think through her reasoning on slowing down a process, you can then give support to your ideas with language that speaks to her concerns.  For example, a micromanager may have several critical and costly projects going at the same time and could be afraid himself of dropping the ball on some, so he slows everything down and reins in decision-making. It can make a work team nuts, but if you determine to understand something of his position, you can stay in the conversation rather than just bolting.

Hating on your boss will only cloud the relationship from both sides. Then there’s the ripple effect to other relationships. None of us really want that. See link below…wisdom.

Workplace Wisdom – Dave’s Observation on Work (and Other) Relationships – What You Think of Others Matters – Deb Mills

You can help here, respectfully, by thinking through other ways to get to the solution of the problem or impasse. Empathy is a discipline that keeps conversations positive and inclusive of all those needed to make the decision on a new direction.Photo Credit: Career Contessa

Empathy at Work – Why It (Really) Matters – Jacqueline McElhone

Besides empathy, I have also discovered a different path. Maybe like you, I am one of those persons who generates ideas like other people generate the responses “we tried that” or “that’s good, but”. Creatives aren’t always well-received in the decision-making hierarchy. In recent years, I went through a season of de-motivation and diminished initiative. Life is too short to spend long in that mindset.

I finally shook off the troubled slumber of that season, in three ways:

  • Making the decision to continue working with the same organization, but
  • Looking for other avenues (non-profits, start-ups) to express the energy and passion of these ideas which I believed would make a difference.
  • Playing with and developing these ideas in an environment of inclusion and all-voices-wanted-at-the-table.

It wasn’t long that my confidence and sense of how to work smarter helped me to re-engage my workspace, with empathy. The bottlenecks may still be there, the control may still be weighted, but I am the one who changed. More ready for the battles and taking them less personally.

You matter. Your ideas, your solutions to problems, your presence at the table.

Thoughts? Would love to hear them (in Comments).

Photo Credit: Needpix

What Kills Motivation at Work – Justin Reynolds

7 Ways Toxic Managers Stifle Employee Motivation and Productivity – Kristin Marquet

7 Ways Micromanagement Stifles Creativity – Wayne Hastings

Nine Rules for Stifling Innovation – Rosabeth Moss Kanter

10 Ways Weak Managers Stifle Innovation – Liz Ryan

10 Things Companies Do That Kill Employee Motivation – Paul Petrone

Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative? – Jean Hsu

Monday Morning Moment – When Your Work Culture’s In Trouble – with Matt Monge

Photo Credit: Career Addict

Business thought leader and writer Matt Monge is my go-to guy on company culture. The fact that he also struggles personally with depression tenders my heart to what he has to say. He is a straight-talker. Courageous, transparent, and caring. Monge knows toxic work cultures. He is consulted to help fix them, and through his writing he gives generous help to all who struggle to thrive in a culture that makes that a challenge. Take heart, those of you currently in troubled work cultures. Once you have identified what the murkiness is about, you can then act to clear it out…or, if necessary, you can clear out. You have options.

Below you will find Monge’s piece 7 Signs Your Culture Is In Trouble. Click on the link to go further into depth on what these mean.

  • Your culture is in trouble if your CEO is a toxic leader. Matt Monge delineates this further in his article 10 Traits of Ego-driven Leaders. Employees and teams can experience huge shifts in their own thinking and behavior toward each other and customers, just in response to top-down influence. Beware of mission drift also.
  • Your culture is in trouble if poor managers are allowed to remain poor managers indefinitely. This is sad for both the manager herself and the team under her. When a company is frantic with reacting to the demands of toxic leadership, the simplest processes of feedback, teaming, and  development take a backseat. Everyone suffers.
  • Your culture is in trouble if humanness and vulnerability are absent. In a troubled work culture, trust deteriorates. The bottom line is the driving force. Keeping one’s job and the perks of that job trumps everything else that might have once mattered in a work culture.
  • Your culture is in trouble if accountability is misunderstood and only selectively applies. Healthy accountability is meant to be a two-way process. Leaders and subordinates are best-served when they have open communication and transparency is high. An employee is much more open to accountability when he sees that his leaders also submit to the accountability of others.
  • Your culture is in trouble if people aren’t learning much. Opportunities for training and growth are signs of a healthy environment where employees clearly matter to the organization.
  • Your culture is in trouble if teams and departments have ongoing problems performing their core functions. This is a glaring sign of trouble. When performance is off and morale matches it, a cry for help is being sounded. When personnel just don’t care, something has to be done to turn that around. What that something is and who is capable to doing it can be sorted out by both managers and employees. Punitive action is not the answer.
  • Your culture is in trouble if executive team morale is low. This speaks to the ripple effect starting from a toxic CEO, through the organization and then back up the chain-of-command. Morale, as we know, has a huge impact on performance. When the executive team is struggling with low morale, reflecting that of the company, then it’s to the point that someone from the outside must come in to help correct course. This takes enormous vulnerability on the part of the executive team.

Having come through a cancer diagnosis, my experience is that it’s better to know what’s going on than to remain in the dark…or that murkiness of knowing something is wrong but you’re not sure what.

Once we identify what the struggle is with our work culture, we can begin to rectify our situation. Some things we may have little control over, but what we can change, we must.Photo Credit: Venture Lab, Pauline James

Business writer Joanna Zambas has given us examples that mirror Matt Monge’s list on company culture (see links below). One of her lists celebrates companies who have made culture a priority.

25 Unmistakable Signs of a Bad Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

20 Examples of Great Company Culture – Joanna Zambas

Southwest Airlines made Zambas’ list. It is my favorite domestic airline. Mainly because of its customer service. However, that customer service is rooted in a work culture that is very pro-employee. Photo Credit: Business2Community

I know that first-hand because of my contact, over many years, with one Southwest employee. Her kindness, demeanor, and consistent care at every touchpoint have demonstrated to me the very heart of this company.

My hope for all of us is that we can work toward a company culture like this one…bottom-to-top if necessary. For you as company leaders, you may not see this or any such piece…but I hope you can be encouraged or re-energized to grow such a culture. The impact will nothing but positive…you know it somewhere in that leader heart of yours.

7 Signs Your Culture Is In TroubleMatt Monge

YouTube Video – Matt Monge: Speaker, Writer, Leadership & Culture Expert, Depression Fighter

What Not to Do When You’re Trying to Motivate Your Team – Ron Carucci

Turnover Trouble: How a Great Company Culture Can Help You retain Your Best Employees – Emma Sturgis

Monday Morning Moment – Kindness Over Cleverness – Work Culture Where Employee Satisfaction Impacts Marketing – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Are You Engaged at Work? It Matters that YOU Show Up

Blog - Engagement - idonethis blogPhoto Credit: IDoneThis.com

In the pre-dawn light of this Monday morning, my husband and I sat briefly together. Over our first cup of coffee, we were talking about employee engagement, of all things. I had just read the most excellent blog (by Corinne Rogero) on being engaged, and it inspired a rare early morning conversation. Be encouraged.

This beautiful young woman, Corinne, tantalizes the reader with a blog seemingly about engagement to be married:

“I want to be engaged, but it’s probably not what you think. I’m as single as a slice of American cheese right now, which is perfect for me and I prefer it that way. But when I say I want to be engaged, I don’t mean I’m looking for a fiancé. I mean I want to be engaged in the sense that I’m mindful of the people and surroundings and culture and the spiritual warfare around me. I want to establish meaningful connections with the person on the other side of my coffee mug or in the booth across from me at dinner or in the passenger seat of my car. I want to lean in and connect with the stories being told. I want to actively console the sorrows being shared. I don’t want to go through conversations absentmindedly anymore.” – Corinne Rogero, I Should Be Engaged

This state of mindfulness and staying in the present are crucial to being engaged…no matter the environment or work circumstance.

Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

When we become discouraged or demoralized with work, our tendency is to lose our bearings, almost become disoriented. We move to being defensive (reactionary), rather than offensive (proactive or forward-thinking). We lose focus and the best problem-solvers, highest producers among us can seem to lose their way…shifting focus to lesser goals and more easily achievable ends.

What I loved most about Rogero’s blog on being engaged was the personal intentionality of it. Her chief desires were clear and she was resolved to clear the way for them…in her day-to-day present.

I loved that and am inspired, empowered, and energized by that. I want to communicate and model that in my own workspace.

Tom Muha wrote a great piece entitled Achieving Happiness: Leadership Styles: Multipliers vs. Diminishers. I didn’t see how it related to achieving happiness but it did give an excellent summation of Liz Wiseman’s book Multipliers: How the Best leaders Make Everybody Smarter. Read her book for sure; Muha’s article will whet your appetite to read it.

I refer you to the concept of “multipliers vs. diminishers” because employee engagement is incredibly impacted by what kind of supervisor we have. Some supervisors maximize their team’s work experience (multipliers) while others maximize their own perceived importance to the organization rather than empowering their employees (diminishers).

We may not easily see how we can alter our situation with our boss (other than losing ourselves trying to please him/her, disengaging, or quitting altogether), but I see possibilities. It is possible, we can make a difference with our boss…if we don’t give up. It is also possible to make a difference for peers to help each other stay engaged or to re-engage. I loved Corinne Rogero’s quote below:

You will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher or the Christian by staring into his eyes as if he were your mistress: better to fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him.C. S. Lewis

It is hard sometimes…harder than we could imagine it would be sometimes…but whatever it takes to stay in the battle is better than disengaging ourselves from it.

Disengagement is very isolating. The disengaged just get quieter and focused elsewhere. Or, at its worst, disengagement gathers together a company of the miserable. No judging here…I just grieve the loss of what can be – not just product or service, but the continuing growth, joy, satisfaction of real, valued people at work.

Whatever our work situation or challenge, staying engaged is worth every effort, moment by moment. Hopefully your organization understands and is building in processes for ongoing employee engagement. Speak into that, if given opportunity. Speak into it anyway.

BLog - Employee engagement - management study guide

Photo Credit: ManagementStudyGuide.com

Hear one last word from Corinne Rogero on being engaged in life in the present:

“I want to be locked and loaded with an arsenal of grace and truth and boldness to bring the good news of hope into the lives that intersect mine. I want to be fully aware of God’s presence in every moment and not as much like Jacob who woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it!”Corinne Rogero

No matter our situation at work – a team at odds with itself, a difficult culture, a boss who I don’t understand – no matter our situation, we can determine to be engaged. There is an undeniable emotional component to engagement, but it is larger than emotion. We can do the personal work of being “locked and loaded” – alone or with a few others who share our same vision and stewardship (belief/ethics). Our work lives are too precious to waste in disengagement… It may take some time for our circumstances to change, but our hearts, resolve, and focus can be sharpened in the fire of whatever difficulty faces us at work…if we don’t give up*.

What challenge are you facing at work that steals away your joy, drive, or confidence? What has helped you stay engaged? What are you doing to turn perceived walls, barriers or bottlenecks into doorways? Let us learn from you in comments below, please.

I Should Be Engaged – Corinne Rogero

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everybody Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Greg Mckeown

Gallup – Five Ways to Improve Employee Engagement

Best Practice Advice on Employee Engagement and Organization Development

*Galatians 6:9

Building a Healthy Work Culture – in a Season of Change, Uncertainty, and Dips in Morale

Blog - Culture of FunPhoto Credit: Grasshopper.com

What are you celebrating at work these days? Hopefully you didn’t have to think really hard. Just having a job is something to celebrate, for sure. Beyond that, hopefully you have work that gets you up in the morning with a sense of purpose and a gladness of heart for your work community.

What if that’s not the case this morning? Any number of things can cause our workplace to become more stressful than healthful – a disappointing outcome in our research, a conflict over division of labor, a company merger or buy-out, a downsizing. I am awkwardly  list such things because none may touch on your situation. What is your work situation and your current work culture?

Whatever it is, working over a protracted period of time with low morale makes for a difficult work situation. We want to do whatever we can to turn that around. Not just for the sake of the organization and the goals of same, but for the sake of the personnel. The wellbeing of employees is the biggest factor in the long-term productivity of organizations. Yet, how do we wrap our collective leadership minds around such a thing as morale and engagement?

The key is work culture – and fostering a healthy work culture with as much energy and thought as we do our product line or customer service.

I was reading about work culture, especially related to a season of spiraling morale, and came across a pdf introduction of the book How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work by Rosie Ward and Jon Robison.

Not having read beyond the introduction of the book, I can’t give a full recommendation yet. However, the first few pages have already resonated with me about what is at play related to morale, or well-being, and what could be possible to restore it. Here are some quotes from Ward & Robison’s Introduction:

“Despite overwhelming evidence of a powerful link between effective leadership styles, positive work cultures and higher levels of organizational performance, many companies still operate with a top down, authoritarian management style, do not measure or intentionally create their desired culture, and do not effectively develop current and future leaders to maximize employee engagement and wellbeing.”

The authors go on to say that even in work situation where the leadership style is more employee-centered, the idea of work culture may not be well-understood or operationalized.

“Culture is the differentiating factor between high-performing and low-performing companies; however, most companies have not identified, articulated, measured or intentionally created their desired culture.”

The dilemma of employee morale may actually extend to the leadership team itself.

“The majority of executive leadership teams are not operating in a truly cohesive manner, and many leaders themselves are at a point of burnout.”

“Edgar Schein, PhD, leading researcher on corporate culture, describes culture as ‘the hidden force that drives most of our behavior both inside and outside organizations’. It’s like looking at a river. All of the things you see on the surface, from the flow of the water to the shape of the riverbed, are manifestations of an ever-changing, powerful current beneath the surface. In terms of culture, the current that ultimately guides the strength and direction of the organization includes the unconscious, taken-for-granted beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and feelings of employees. The interaction between leaders and culture is profound and critical when considering how to transform or evolve the overall culture and subcultures within an organization.

“Patrick Lencioni writes that, to be successful, an organization must focus on two basic qualities: It must be smart, and it must be healthy. According to Lencioni, a ‘smart organization’ is one that excels in the classic fundamentals of business — i.e., strategy, operations, finance, marketing and technology. A “healthy organization” is one in which there are minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity and low turnover. While being smart is only half of the equation, for most organizations, it occupies almost all of the time, energy and attention of leaders. Yet, according to Lencioni: ‘Once organizational health is properly understood and placed into the right context it will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage. Really.‘”

Blog - How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work

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How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work, Featuring the 7 Points of Transformation by Rosie Ward and Jon Robison

Work culture and employee well-being are not addressed by just another wellness program. Organizational ethos and values must incorporate both philosophy and programming to build morale, trust, and engagement of employees. Especially if the organization has been through a protracted season of change and uncertainty.

The good news is that possibilities abound. Workplace development literature is rich with approaches and frameworks that you will find helpful in attacking your own set of challenges. One such article is Workplace Culture is Everything: 20 Ideas For Building a Thriving Team – Great links to 20 articles on Workplace Culture. [I apologize, since I’m citing this resource, for the “coded” profane word in the title of one article. Good read otherwise].

Another book I re-discovered in reading about morale this weekend is Daniel Pink’s Drive. When a company is in the middle of a reorganization or restructuring, employee wellbeing (engagement, performance, satisfaction) can get lost in the sheer workload of the executive leadership team. This is when Human Resources, Membercare, or the Employee Medical Program can offer their own recommendations as to how to rebuild the work culture from the personnel side.

Are you in such a season? What have you done in this area? What has been helpful? I would love to hear about how your organization has dealt with employee morale and engagement during seasons of transition.

Blog - Healthy Culture - Motivation - Slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

11 Ways to Create a Thriving Workplace

How to Create and Maintain a Workplace Culture That Will Make Your Company Thrive